Light Rail

Mountain Rapid Transit and Economic Development

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 20, 2007

With the increasing momentum over a possible light rail system in Hamilton, RTH has, perhaps understandably, focused mainly on the downtown line. However, the escarpment line may have even more potential for economic development, simply because the escarpment has so much more potential for intensification.

The prevailing view is that the line should run along the Lincoln Alexander Parkway, which runs east-west across the mountain between Mohawk and Stone Church.

This would be a terrible idea, especially if the mountain line is light rail.

A major reason to support LRT over buses is that it's an excellent engine for transit oriented economic development. TOD is essentially a band along the line that runs 400 m deep on either side (the distance an average person can walk in five minutes) and comprises the principal geographic area the line will serve.

The idea is to rezone that 800 m TOD corridor to allow maximum land use density and use mixing, so that use of the LRT line itself is maximized; and to raise the quality of the public realm so that walking through it is enjoyable.

This necessarily entails sacrificing surface parking to make room for more intense land use. However, the point of TOD is to reduce dependence on the automobile and hence the need for abundant parking.

That means any TOD secondary plan will need to include a reduction or complete waiver on parking requirements.

The problem with the Linc is that it's already a limited-access highway. That limits both the capacity to develop the development corridor (since highways are always separated by a land buffer) and to walk to LRT stations. In other words, the potential for TOD is shot right from the outset.

This also eliminates Lime Ridge Rd, since the Linc would overlap its TOD corridor.

Fennel Ave., Mohawk Rd. or Stone Church Rd. would be a much better candidate for a mountain LRT line.

Fennel Line

The Fennel line could start at Garth St. and run east to Mountain Brow Blvd. This location would be optimal for students attending Mohawk College at Fennel Ave. W. and West 5th St., and the under-used land north of Fennel is a great candidate for mixed use intensification.

Moving east, the TOD corridor would extend north to the escarpment / Queensdale Ave. / Edgewood Ave. / Donlea Dr.

It would extend south to Delmar Dr. / Wembley Rd. / Mitchell Ave. / Howe Ave. / Vickers Rd. / Franklin Rd. / Halam Ave. / Macassa Ave. / Lupin Ave. / Broker Dr.

This area is almost exclusively single family residential, with some low density commercial and residential high-rise on Fennel iself.

In addition to the greenspace north of Mohawk College, other opportunities for intensification include the surface parking at Upper James, Upper Wentworth, Upper Gage and Upper Ottawa.

Mohawk Line

The Mohawk line could start at Golf Links Rd. and Stone Church Rd. W. and proceed east to Mountain Brow Blvd.

Moving east, the TOD corridor would extent north to Chedmac Dr. / Sanatorium Rd. / Elmwood Ave. / Bendamere Ave. / South Bend Rd. W. / McElroy Rd. W. / Callie Rd. / Franklin Rd. / Macassa Ave. / 9th Ave. / Broker Dr.

It would extend south to Appleford Rd. / Limeridge Rd. W. / Tyrone Dr. / Hester St. / Bobolink Rd. / Berko Ave. / Larch St. / Landron Ave.

Again, the TOD corridor is mostly made up of single family homes, with several low-density land uses (surface parking, vacant lots, one-story strip plazas) along Mohawk.

Stone Church Line

The Stone Church line could start at Golf Links Rd and proceed east to Dartnell or even Mud St.

Moving east, the TOD corridor would extend north to Garrow Dr. / Duncairn Cres. / Chester Ave. / Blossom Dr. / Chipman Ave. / Pescara Dr. / Loconder Dr. / Quaker Cres. / the Linc.

It would extend south to Amore Blvd. / Regent Ave. / Como Dr. / Bonaparte Way / Delancey Blvd. / Emperor Ave. / Fano Dr. / Dalia Ave. / Dulgaren St. / Presidio Dr. / Royal Vista Dr. / Hempstead Dr. / Highland Rd. W.

Stone Church has the most potential for greenfield development on land that hasn't been used yet, but the residential houses inside the Stone Church TOD corridor are still fairly new, so there would not be as much opportunity for intensification or adaptive reuse.

It would also move the development centre of gravity far south of the Mountain's geographic centre.

Granted, this is already happening via today's car oriented development, but there's a case to be made for intensifying the already built up areas. As Mary Lou Tanner, the former city manager of strategic and environmental planning, explained in a 2005 RTH interview:

The interesting thing about suburbs is, as time marches on, they become part of the urban landscape. So there is a temporal component to what is a suburb as what was a suburb in the 1940s is now considered urban in many cities. I think we are looking at cities that mature and provide employment, housing, and accessible, balanced transportation in a mature urban structure.

This means compact urban form supported by a balanced transportation network.

In any case, Hamilton should really locate the mountain line on a street that has the best opportunity for transit oriented intensification. This will fit with the nodes-and-corridors growth model, help achieve the city's transportation goals, and provide the best return on an investment in rapid transit.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2007 at 11:32:41

Let's make our way onto this map!

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 20, 2007 at 12:24:31

I agree Ryan. LRT on the Linc would be a waste. The Linc and Red Hill/403 loop should use BRT. I personally like Mohawk Rd the's already fairly dense in some spots and has the best growth potential in the meadowlands area with acres of empty land/lots and it would intersect nicely with the upper james line and allow for a boom in TOD there.

BRT would work on Rymal Rd and Centennial Pkwy as one long 'L' shaped line from Barton/Centennial to Rymal/Duffs Corner area.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted September 20, 2007 at 20:45:48

I agree with Jason that Mohawk Road would seem to be the best bet, although it would appear to be longer than the Fennell line and therefore more costly.

But what's this about intersecting with the Upper James line? I thought that there were only two rapid trsnsit lines in the provincial offer.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 20, 2007 at 22:10:25

yes, the province is offering to fund 2 lines. The city's long term plan calls for rapid transit lines along Rymal, possibly Mohawk, Centennial and Barton. The first 2 lines (hopefully LRT) will be Mac-Eastgate and downtown to Upper James.

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By hsrider (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2007 at 22:10:49

Hey beancounter, that would be a great phase 2 once the first two lines get established and the city is sold on expanding. A 3rd line could run along Barton from the Crick and turn left on James to go up the Jolley Cut across to Upper James and up to a connection at the Mohawk line. Imagine Barton springing back to life! It's almost a sin not to do it.

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By Tim Jacobs (registered) | Posted September 21, 2007 at 11:24:35

Calgary's mayor, David Bronconnier, has announced that he will, if re-elected, extend Calgary's Light Rail Transit (LRT)system by an additional three lines at a cost of $930 million.

We need to alert Hamilton's slow politicians to these types of stories so that Hamilton is not again left behind.


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By Frank (registered) | Posted September 27, 2007 at 09:06:32

I agree with Jay, Mohawk Rd is the best bet. It's not consistently developed yet and even the areas that are could use intensification. It'd be a glorious day when city politicians run on a platform based on improving transit with specific goals instead of blanket promises.
The Linc?? what a waste of money! not to mention making travel on the Linc worse. We gotta keep the "ring" highways as free as possible so we can get rid of people using the downtown roads to speed out to the 403. Once the Red Hill is open, let's shut down King Street downtown and reroute traffic down Cannon. Make it a cultural/economical destination for investors, tourists and residents. Fix the heart, the rest will follow.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 27, 2007 at 09:39:20

"Fix the heart, the rest will follow"


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